Updated: 05/28/2014 21:50

Ministry of Home Affairs says it's keeping an eye on 3D technology

Ministry of Home Affairs says it's keeping an eye on 3D technology

3D printing may be growing in Singapore, with the increasing availability of 3D printers and free-to-download blueprints. 

But think again before you print - in case what you do print may get you into trouble. 

The Home Affairs Ministry says it's keeping an eye on 3D technology to ensure its not used for illicit purposes. 

They may be made of plastic. 

But homemade handguns ARE capable of firing bullets. 

What's more, it can cost as little as $30 to print one. 

And because these guns are made of plastic, they are virtually undetectable through metal detectors or other security scanners. 

The Home Affairs Ministry told 938LIVE that it has been tracking reports on 3D printing technologies overseas. 

It said it IS aware of the potential security implications posed by this technology, and that it is working with relevant agencies to ensure that the technology is not abused. 

Professor Chua Chee Kai leads one of the world's most well-equipped 3D printing research centres at the Nanyang Technological University. 

He feels that some regulation is necessary, but not too much. 

"The way you embrace technology is you have a window, and you stand at the window. You get your things ready, the flies come in and you swat the flies. But the others you let them in. You need to be able to balance it. If you totally close the window, nothing will come in. No technology will come into Singapore. Then we will lose out."

However, some believe it's impossible to regulate 3D printing. 

This is Benoit Val-in, founder of Prototype Asia, a company specialising in business-to-business 3D printing. 

"Controlling the amount of 3D printers and who has a 3D printer is extremely difficult because you can go anywhere, you can go Sim Lim and buy a 3D printer or parts to make a 3D printer. But to print a gun.. That's tough."

Val-in says he's received orders to print guns, but turns them down because his company is not licensed to manufacture firearms. 

"We do disclose to the police when someone tries to manufacture something that could be used as a weapon. For example, when you want to print bullets or print a gun, even though it's technically and physically possible to manufacture, the risk for us to manufacture it becomes too great for us to do. We proactively say if someone else asks us to print this, are we allowed to do it? Then they will say yes or no."

Alternatively, the government could choose to block open source websites on which 3D gunsmiths post their schematics. 

That because if you don't have the blue print, you don't know what to print and you cannot print at all. 

Schools that teach 3D printing also teach students to print responsibly. 

NTU's Prof Chua Chee Kai works with engineering undergraduates and graduate students at his research centre. 

"We have a tagline, "Printing the world and beyond", but I qualified and told them there are two things they cannot print. One is guns, and the other is money."

-By Fann Sim

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